Spring Letter from Dr. Zaccara

Dear Vermont Academy Family,

In Wendell Berry’s great poem “The Sycamore,” he plants a seedling of his philosophy of interdependence: Like the sycamore, we can “gather all accidents” into our purpose,
and we can practice an “indwelling,” which he seems to define in the final line of the poem: “I see that it stands in its place, and feeds upon it, / and is fed upon, and is native, and maker.”

Essentially, Berry teaches us about discovery and about the ways in which we are tied to the earth and it to us. This interconnectedness lies at the center of Vermont Academy’s exciting plan to expand our sustainability programming and to let it take its place at the heart of our mission to educate students for life and to enable students to be faithful to the VA motto, “Be True to Your Best Self.”

One piece of the magic of Vermont Academy lies in what the Romantic poets would call a symbiotic relationship between perceiving and doing. We are lodged in a gorgeous expanse of 450 acres of woods that almost hug us in an enclosing circle of red pine, fir trees, craggy trails, and quiet starry nights. Poised above the river valley, we gaze on misty mountains and foggy hills and dales that give us a picturesque and timeless view of southern Vermont. The great philosopher Husserl believed that the real world is the world of our immediately lived experiences, coupled with the light and nuance of individual perception. At Vermont Academy, this belief lies at the heart of our mission.

We believe that learning by doing, learning in nature, and learning in a family environment of support and friendship are timeless equations. In the clean mountain air, peace of mind enables self-discovery, and our students map their own way, receiving a handcrafted education tailored to their personal goals and journeys. The Vermont Academy way includes the thrill of discovery, developing a personal learning blueprint, experiential benchmarks, core skill training, cultural competency, and citizenship. All of these trademarks of a Vermont Academy education add up to being a good citizen for self and others. The connections between nature and community are alive for us each day.

Our sustainability theme this year includes a look at three subsets of natural space and imagery: the garden, the forest, and the river. In each of our trimesters, we are concentrating on one of these natural features. The spring will bring us to a celebration of the river, and several classes are integrating curricula to look a the multi-faceted life of the Saxtons and Connecticut Rivers, river history, river natural life, and the river as muse. We will have a special art show of poetry, paintings, and photography by professional and student artists this spring at the Horowitz Performing Arts Building and around our campus and village community. Photography teacher and artist Evie Lovett and poet Diane Whitney will lead us through an exploration and celebration of the river through the arts. Our faculty had a brainstorming session about the multiple ways in which the river can be explored in math, science, art, English, music, and other disciplines, and curricular activities emerged for this year. The scope of this vision reveals the ways in which we hope to define our sustainable programming for the future.

At Vermont Academy, we place student experience and citizenship at the center of all that we do. Our hope is to have our Global, Outdoor, and Diversity & Inclusion Programs, along with our community engagement and cultural competency work, all radiating from the central hub of sustainability for the future. Here in Vermont, we are immersed in the tinkering and engineering that emerge from the farming cultures; in the performing and visual arts that have inspired poets, actors, and artists in summer residence and summer stock; and in the celebration of expeditions and journeys through the landscape. Our early assistant headmaster James P. Taylor was the originator of the Long Trail, and our Outdoor Programs and daily learning experiences adhere to a core value of learning by doing.

This is a new generation where students care deeply about the land and want to make a difference in preserving it. We hope to provide them the structure and guidance to create their personal pathways to reach their goals.

Springtime greetings from Vermont, where the sap is running and the snow is melting,